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The Heartbeats

LuAnn Thibodeau

When you think of heartbeats, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is not a musical group. But maybe it’s time to find out about that very thing. 

The Heart Beats is an a cappella group that began a bit over a year ago (June 2022). Allie Coes started the group by posting something on Facebook, saying that a new group was forming and that they were looking for members who were interested. 

The Heart Beats is made up of parents who meet for rehearsals in Sterling. Most of them sang in a cappella groups in college and longed for that camaraderie again. But there are also those who have never sung before, as well as those who were music majors in college, so the skill levels run the gamut. There are currently thirteen members of the group- two men and eleven women. A round of auditions will be conducted after the first of the year, so that those who might be interested in joining will have the opportunity to see what The Heart Beats is all about, while showcasing what they have to offer to the group. 

Due to the members being parents, sometimes other things interfere with practice sessions. And sometimes there are additional “members” who come to the rehearsals- ie kids (maybe the next generation of the group). 

The group sings a wide variety of music- ranging from pop to folk and recently added a song by the Indigo Girls to their repertoire. One of the group’s arrangers is really into folk music, so there will be new and exciting songs to also be added. 

The Heart Beats will be hosting their debut concert on Sunday, December 3rd, at 3 pm, in The Harrington Performing Arts Center at The Bancroft School in Worcester. There will be a special guest group at the show- the a cappella group Tonal Eclipse. There is a $10 suggested donation, and cash as well as Venmo will be accepted. 

So, if you need a break from holiday shopping, or perhaps from too much eating and leftovers from Thanksgiving, then make it a point to be at the concert on December 3rd.  Bring family and friends and start a new holiday tradition. It promises to be an exciting time filled with wonderful music. What a great way to make memories while listening to some great local talent. Want to hear a clip or two of The Heart Beats? You can check them out on Instagram at The Heart Beats_acapella, and on Facebook at Heart Beats A Cappella. 

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entertainment

High Spirits: Pre-Rolls and Edibles as the Coolest Hostess Gifts this Holiday Season!

ROBERT SZATKOWSKI

Alright, let’s talk hostess gifts! We’ve all done the classic wine and cheese routine, but how about jazzing things up a bit? Enter pre-rolls and edibles—yes, you heard that right, the kind of gifts that’ll make you the star of any holiday shindig. There are plenty of reasons why cannabis goodies are the secret sauce for the ultimate hostess gift, here a are few that might spark your interest.

Think of pre-rolls and edibles as the spice rack of gifts. Some folks love a good old-fashioned joint, while others dig the slow burn of a yummy edible. These gifts aren’t one-size-fits-all; they’re a smorgasbord of options, letting your hostess pick her adventure. And who doesn’t love options, especially when it’s about kicking back and enjoying some chill time?

Cannabis has this magic power—it brings people together. Sharing a joint or munching on edibles? That’s instant connection material! Picture this: everyone chilling, giggling over the smallest things, and bonding over a shared experience. Your gift becomes the gateway to memorable moments and side-splitting stories. Who knew a little green could bring so much joy?

Holidays can be a whirlwind, am I right? Sometimes the best gift is a moment of zen. Enter the pre-roll or edible, the superheroes of relaxation. After all the hustle and bustle, your hostess can kick back, relax, and float away on a cloud of good vibes. It’s like giving the gift of a mini-vacay, but without the baggage fees.

Who said cannabis can’t be fancy? Forget the stereotype; we’re talking about sophisticated pre-rolls and edibles. Think beautifully rolled joints that could pass for art and edibles packaged fancier than a holiday gift basket. Your hostess won’t just be thankful; she’ll be Instagramming these beauties before you can say, “pass the munchies!”

Let’s face it, cannabis is the new cool kid at the party. By gifting pre-rolls and edibles, you’re saying, “Hey, let’s celebrate this awesome plant together!” It’s about normalizing cannabis in a fun, party context. Your gift is more than just a good time; it’s a nod to the changing times and a way to inject some cool vibes into the holiday mix.

In a nutshell, gifting pre-rolls and edibles isn’t just about giving a present; it’s about sparking laughter, creating moments, and adding a sprinkle of fun to the holiday cheer. So, why stick to the predictable when you can bring a little buzz of excitement to the party?

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entertainment

Mission Chapel Revitalization

Vincent Pacifico

Located downtown Worcester, just steps away from Union Station, is one of the oldest surviving historic churches in the city. On the corner of Summer and Bridge Street is Worcester’s Mission Chapel, built by Ichabod Washburn in 1854. This building is one of the city’s only surviving examples of Romanesque Architecture. The building consists of a main gable structure with an intersection gable on the rear which is typical of church design. The exterior shell of the building is brick with beautiful ornamentation, corbeling, large arched windows along with the front facade retaining its original masonry sign that says “Mission Chapel”.  Each side has two shed style dormers which appear to let light into the upper stories. With its significant style and iconic image adding character to the street front, it’s no wonder the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The chapel was originally built for the Evangelical City Missionary Society which used the building to cater towards Worcester’s poor community. This nondenominational church gave Worcester’s worker and immigrant community a place where they could gather and worship. It also served as a location for local missionaries to carry out their service to the poor. At points during the 20th century the building was rented commercially but for the past twenty five years the building has sat vacant, deteriorating and even being consumed by ivy growing up its walls.

Currently the building has been undergoing a renovation and is being turned into housing, which the city is in dire need of. The building is being proposed as seven market rate apartments consisting of one bedrooms, two bedrooms and even a massive three bedroom apartment. The development is known as “Mission on Summer” and is a great example of a transit oriented site being that it is so close to public transportation. The building went through a change of use and an extensive rehabilitation. The exterior brickwork appears to have been repointed, cleaned and restored and historic replica windows have been installed to match what was there during the period of significance. The interior of the apartments feature modern living with touches of historic fabric such as some refinished original wood floors, along with original window openings.

Many including myself have walked by this building for years and wondered what it was being used for and what it looked like behind its rusted out metal front doors. Even in its abandoned day it was always a beautiful gem that was waiting to breathe new life again. Thanks to the development team and all its contributors, Mission Chapel can now serve a new purpose in Worcester with something the city so desperately needs – more housing.

Photo Citations

Image 1-6: Image taken by Peter Fauci

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entertainment

Whether You’re a Turkey Trotter or Gobble Wobbler, There’s No Shortage of Road Races This November

Eric Casey

Maybe you’re trying to cut carbs in anticipation of a big Thanksgiving Day meal. Maybe you’re trying to desperately outrun seasonal depression. Or maybe you’re just one of those peculiar individuals who actually enjoys running as a hobby. 

Whatever the case may be, it’s once again time for the return of the region’s annual Turkey Trots. These annual events are typically short road races that are designed to give you something to do on Thanksgiving before you make the trek to your in-laws for dinner.

Wherever you find yourself in Central Massachusetts during Thanksgiving week and whatever your skill level, there’s a turkey trot for you out there! 

Unless otherwise noted, these events all happen on Thanksgiving morning (November 23rd). 

Westborough Turkey Trot (November 18th) – Now in its tenth year, Westborough’s Turkey Trot offers the opportunity to get some steps in before the holidays are in full swing. This year’s event includes a 5K race that begins and ends at Westboro High School. A kids fun run is also scheduled. This particular trot raises funds to support Westborough Public School initiatives. To sign up, head to www.westboroughturkeytrot.com

Greater Gardner Turkey Trot – If you’re looking to really hit the gravy hard this Thanksgiving, perhaps the Greater Gardner Turkey Trot’s five mile course will help you maximize the amount of carbs you burn. This point-to-point race takes a scenic route from Gardner to Baldwinville, with the proceeds benefiting a few of the local high school cross country teams. You can find more info at www.gardnertrackxc.weebly.com/greaterturkeytrot.html.

Southborough Gobble Wobble Road Race The 13th annual Gobble Wobble offers participants the option of either a 5K race or two mile walk that involves a loop near the Trotter School, a fittingly named school for such an event. Proceeds will benefit a variety of community projects and organizations in Southborough. More details at www.runsignup.com/Race/MA/Southboro/Southboroughs13thAnnualGobbleWobble.

Holden Turkey Trot – This year’s trot will feature a new course that begins and ends at Seven Saws Brewery. If you find yourself near the front of the pack at the end of the race, you’ll want to reach deep to see if you can find a second wind; $100 will go to the 1st place in both the male and female groups. Proceeds raised this year will benefit the Be Like Brit Foundation and local food pantries. You can sign up at www.raceroster.com/events/2023/78380/2023-holden-turkey-trot.

Hopedale Fire & Police Gobble Wobble – The fifth annual Hopedale’s Gobble Wobble is a 5K on-road/off-road race that begins and ends at the Hopedale Fire Department. This year’s race will benefit the local fire and police departments’ quest to upgrade their equipment. Find more info at www.hopedalegobblewobble.com.

Northborough Turkey Trot – More than 1,000 runners are expected for Northborough’s trot, a 5K race that winds through the town’s idyllic neighborhoods. Northborough’s Turkey Trot raises money for the town’s food pantry, bringing in over $65,000 since the first race in 2008. This year’s proceeds will also help children attend local summer programming. For more info about the race, check out www.northboroughturkeytrot.org.

Philip J. Weihn Turkey Chase 5K – The 22nd running of this 5K event takes participants through the scenic streets of Clinton. Competitors can expect this race to be a bit more intense than your average trot, as the organizers describe the course as “challenging.” This event is limited to 500 runners and does not allow for race day registration, so move quickly! You can sign up at runsignup.com/Race/MA/Clinton/PhilipJWeihnAnnualTurkeyChase5K

Turkey Trot for the Memory – This Shrewsbury-based race is of the five mile variety, featuring a course that starts near Spring Street Elementary School and finishes in downtown Shrewsbury. If that sounds exhausting, a two mile walk is also available as an option. All proceeds directly benefit the MA/NH Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, check out www.turkeytrotforthememory.org

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entertainment

Five Years Into Legalization, Dispensaries Have To Get Creative To Stand Out

Eric Casey

This November marks the fifth anniversary of our state’s first ever legal recreational weed sale back in 2018. Half a decade into this experiment, I think it’s safe to declare that the hype surrounding this emerging industry has died down quite a bit. 

Dispensary openings no longer bring out a long line of eager patrons, and the large crowd of media members that used to frequent every meeting of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission has now dwindled to just a handful of people. Residents of the state have also become very used to the proliferation of cannabis billboards lining our highways, forcing dispensary owners to figure out new ways to attract customers.

To make matters even more difficult for local canna-businesses, every state that surrounds Massachusetts (with the ironic exception of “live free or die” New Hampshire) has now legalized the plant. These states still have a long way to go before they have the same type of product availability and prices that we see here in Massachusetts, but the days where dispensaries could rely on these out-of-state visitors to boost their coffers are slowly coming to an end. 

As all the excitement around legal weed has declined, businesses have had to get creative in order to keep customers coming in the door. Here’s three emerging trends we’ve seen in the cannabis space, as well as some tips on how consumers can benefit from these new ideas.

  1. Community Partnerships

While some of the larger cannabis companies in the country have partnered with famous celeb stoners like Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg to help create hype around their brands, locally-owned businesses have often gone for a more community-focused touch. 


One recent example of this is Major Bloom Dispensary’s partnership with Femme, the new lesbian bar that opened up a few months back on Green Street. These two businesses have worked together to launch a Femme-branded pre-rolls which contain a blend of herbs that are designed to help those who are suffering from painful reproductive conditions like endometriosis.

In a joint press release announcing this new line of joints, Femme owner Danielle Spring said that they launched this product to help encourage more people to discuss the difficulties that are faced by people suffering from reproductive conditions.

“So many of us have endometriosis but we don’t talk about it enough,” says Spring. “The only thing that helped ease my pain was smoking weed.” 

What Customers Should Know: While buying weed that’s backed by your favorite rapper may sound like a fun idea, it’s not like Wiz Khalifa is pulling up to the local cannabis cultivation facility to water the plants on a daily basis. In reality, these celebrity-backed products are often virtually identical to other products these companies sell, with the only difference being a higher price point (and perhaps some fancier packaging). So instead of giving wealthy celebrities even more cash to burn, conscious consumers should perhaps consider buying from local brands instead. 

  1. Technology

The rise of legal weed has led to a creation of a whole cottage industry of tech-focused companies who are attempting to help dispensaries stand out from their competitors. One such business is Mosaic, a Massachusetts-based company that designs digital platforms and mobile apps for cannabis companies. 

While large companies like WeedMaps and Leafly give cannabis companies the opportunity to have an online presence, these services often charge large fees just to provide dispensaries with a digital menu that looks exactly the same as ones used by their competitors. 

With that in mind, Mosaic offers a more custom and focused approach that intends to help dispensaries of all sizes stand out from the crowd, according to Mosaic founder Jack Blaeser. 

“Our superpower might be where we can help a group of one or ten or twenty dispensaries have a better digital experience than the biggest players in the cannabis market,” said Blaeser.

Services provided by Mosaic include the creation of online ordering platforms that allow businesses to offer points and other promotions for their most loyal customers. 

Beyond just having an impressive digital presence, dispensaries are also spending a large time battling for prime real estate on search engines. As so many customers are still unsure of where to shop for legal cannabis, being at the top of the page when someone searches for a phrase like “dispensaries near me” can be a make-or-break difference for stores. 

What Customers Should Know: Thanks to all these technological advances, it’s never been easier to shop around for a good weed deal. So instead of jumping in your car and heading to the closest dispensary, consider grabbing your mobile phone or laptop instead. 

A few minutes of research can go a long way, as shopping for weed via your web browser or phone allows you to check out a number of different dispensary menus without the fear of an impatient queue of customers building up behind you. If you’re trying to be a conscious cannabis consumer, prerusing digital menus also allows you to do some further research on a product that catches your eye. 

While most budtenders are more than happy to help guide customers in the right direction, they’ll be sure to appreciate the fact that you did your homework before coming into the store. 

  1. Cheaper Weed

Many business executives thought legalization would bring in a new era of consumers who preferred non-smokable products like edibles over traditional flower, but pretty much all of the available data shows that simply not to be the case. Despite all the newfangled ways to get high, the majority of consumers still seem to prefer packing a bowl or lighting up a pre-roll.

Businesses have adapted to this reality by offering a variety of discount flower products that may appeal to budget-conscious consumers who don’t particularly care about smoking the finest stuff imaginable. These brands often vary from flower buds that are just a bit smaller than normal (often referred to as “mini buds” or “popcorn nugs”) to big pouches of pre-ground cannabis.

Buying weed for less than $10 a gram was unthinkable when recreational sales first launched in Massachusetts, but now pretty much every store has some sort of metaphorical bargain bin filled with products made from lesser parts of the plant. While people who consider themselves to be cannabis connoisseurs may be turned off by the idea of smoking anything but the finest looking buds, the proliferation of these types of low-cost products shows that the average joe isn’t nearly as picky. 

What Customers Should Know: While nobody should be complaining about cheaper weed, shoppers should know this is still a “buyer beware” situation. Some companies hold themselves to a high standard that prevents them from selling disappointing products, but others are using the popularity of these bargain flower brands to attempt to sell you some particularly low-quality schwag. If you fail to do your research on the particular product you’re buying, your weed may not be the only thing that is getting burned. 

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art&culture entertainment Featured Columns

Now Streaming: NOVEMBER 2023

Jason Savio

Ringo Starr – Rewind Forward

“How can I try to convince you that love and peace and kindness can change your world?” asks Ringo Starr on the title track to his new four-song EP, Rewind Forward. Breezy and with the just amount of positivity, Rewind Forward is exactly what is needed right now. 

Although it is short, Rewind Forward has a lot to say in its brief 14-minute runtime. The 83-year-old Starr makes the most of it lyrically and musically. The opening “Shadows on the Wall” benefits from a repetitive and catchy guitar riff. “Feeling the Sunlight,” with its slinky Beatles old-school pop feel, provides the perfect splash of optimism as Starr encourages us to take the time to soak in the warmth and light around us, singing “sometimes it’s good to admit that you just don’t care.” 

The closing “Miss Jean” is a fun romp, but the best song is perhaps the title track. “Every day there’s a new horizon/Everywhere another mountain to climb,” Starr sings. Leave it to a Beatle to bring some sense and perspective. Starr calls it his “truth.” Maybe if we all listen to what Ringo Starr has to say, we would be a little bit happier. 

For more, visit: www.ringostarr.com/#/

Rick Astley – Are We There Yet?

Chances are you only know singer Rick Astley for his 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give Your Up,” and that’s a shame because he has so much more to offer. Take his newest album, for instance. Are We There Yet? is a collection of soulful songs that have real emotion and are worth your time.

Astley’s voice has aged well and, really, hasn’t changed all that much. His deep and soulful vocals own the twelve tracks with pop inflection and authentic feels. Astley croons on the heartfelt “Golden Hour,” as well the emotional “Letting Go.” A lot of the songs here are acoustic blues ballads and soul tunes (listen to “Maria Love,” complete with horns for a rocking ‘70s funk/soul vibe) dressed up with adult contemporary production. “High Enough” leans a little more to the pop side and sounds ready for radio, while “Never Gonna Stop,” intentionally or not, sounds like a cousin to Astley’s iconic hit.

Are We There Yet? is a complete album from someone who has continued to have a successful career long after his initial success. After all these years, Rick Astley still has a voice that is immediately recognizable and feels more at home than ever before. 

For more, visit: Rick Astley – Official Website